Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Morning copy 8.24.2005

The Iraqi constitution

Fred Kaplan, in Slate, calls the constitution "vacuousness in its most basic proclamations" and says that "it's hard to see how Iraq's constitution could serve either as a document that unifies the new Iraqi nation or as a clear guide to governance." Other points raised by Kaplan include the ability to form a supra-region (read Kurds, Shiites) and that only "current" oil wells would be goverened by the central authority, whatever that is.

Both provisions would make the central government trend toward evaporation.

Kaplan also refers to Professor Juan Cole's analysis of the document. Professor Cole of the University of Michigan wrote Tuesday, LINK:

The new constitution, with blank passages, was presented to parliament just before midnight on August 22. But parliament did not vote on it, and a "three-day delay" was announced.


The rule of law is no longer operating in Iraq, and no pretence of constitutional procedure is being striven for. In essence, the prime minister and president have made a sort of coup, simply disregarding the interim constitution. Given the acquiescence of parliament and the absence of a supreme court (which should have been appointed by now but was not, also unconstitutionally), there is no check or balance that could question the writ of the executive.

The Los Angeles Times' editorial board writes today that "the results so far can only be worrisome for those who hoped the process would help consolidate a new democratic political order and alleviate the Sunni insurgency." LINK. Conclusion:

In short, what some Shiite and Kurd leaders are calling federalism looks dangerously like a recipe for partition or civil war. Perhaps the intractable insurgency has convinced these Iraqis that they must amputate and starve the Sunni heartland. Yet as American soldiers do most of the fighting against the Sunni insurgents, that solution would be disastrous for the U.S. mission and Western security more generally. Iraq's constitution must provide a way for the Sunni community to prosper in a federal democracy. And if at all possible, it must be adopted with Sunni support.

Roger Hardy of the BBC, referenced by Professor Cole, rattles off some substantial issues:

In many ways, Iraq is already dramatically different from the place it was just a few years ago.

Mixed marriages between Sunni and Shia, once taken for granted, are becoming problematic.

In many parts of the country, women dare not walk bare-headed in the street.

And reports from parts of the lawless north-west paint a grim picture of Taliban-style rule by radical Sunni militants.

Professor Cole pays particular attention to this excerpt:

There is no tradition in the Arab world of a successful decentralised state.

The fear is that a weak multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state will go the way of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s - and descend into civil war.

Sunni rulers in Riyadh, Amman, Cairo and elsewhere believe the one country to benefit from the disintegration of Iraq is Shia Iran.

In conclusion, Hardy asks, what will a rush to exit the battle space -- to stop the American bleeding -- lead to?

News about the co s it ti n

Some secular Iraqis chafe under this new constitution, at least the parts that have been written, NY Times LINK.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia fears that the spilts shown in the constitutional process could lead to a vulnerable, broken nation, Arab News LINK. Excerpt:

He warned that sectarian stances “will not lead to anything but the partition of Iraq along sectarian lines.” He called on Iraqi leaders to “let national interests supercede sectarian interests.”

The Los Angeles Times casts the Iraqi constitution referendum as an election day showdown, LINK -- replete with facile 2000/2004 Red State - Blue State analogies!

The Washington Post, LINK, finds glee in the Shiite South, anger in the Sunni Triangle. Excerpt:

"I can say that Iraqis should have recited the prayer for the dead over the united Iraq this morning, after slaughtering it with this constitution," said Jassem Sarhan, a player on the Iraqi army's soccer team and a resident of Ramadi, in the area known as the Sunni Triangle.

North of the capital, in the heavily Sunni town of Dawr, roughly 1,000 demonstrators chanted for Hussein. "We refuse the term 'federalism,'" tribal leader Khairallah Khalaf Muhammed said. "We will fight federalism and whoever tries to force it."

This is a multi-dimensional conflict. With violence, black outs, instability, and now this "federalism", it would be wrong to think the specter of Saddam will not play into this with more alarming results.

Al Jazeera reports that the Sunnis did not have a chance to read the draft submitted Monday night, LINK. With most articles "agreed on" is this the list of carrots for the Sunnis to select:

Several issues remained unresolved, including the mechanism for implementing federalism, the treatment of former Saddam government officials, and how to divide authority among the presidency, parliament and government.

Negotiations will take place over the next three days especially with Sunnis to bridge remaining differences over the text, which must be approved in an October referendum.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari says 151 of the 153 articles have been agreed upon. Of course, Cole and others would point out that this means the draft was but a draft and this government is now un(-interim-)constitutional -- which it undeniably is.

President Bush's stance, AFP LINK, is:

US President George W. Bush urged the Sunnis to embrace the blueprint. "The Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?" he said.

United Nations chief Kofi Annan also appealed Tuesday for "flexibility" among Iraq's rival communities.

The comparison is telling. Annan is asking for flexibility among all parties, whereas Bush suggests that the Sunnis decide between minority status and questionable political/economic power, a fait accompli, and violence.

More Iraq links

Bush's push to rally support for Iraq and staying the course, Christian Science Monitor LINK.

The Los Angeles Times, LINK, notes that Bush has taken a slightly stronger tone in the war of words against Cindy Sheehan.

The insurgents' persistency, even in jail, in the Washington Post.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post notes the Bush media blitz on the war. Excerpt:

Under that dark cloud, the White House yesterday morning rushed to distribute umbrellas. Bartlett signed up for six morning television interviews, on the three networks and the three cable news channels. The White House announced that Bush, vacationing in Idaho, would come out to face the cameras. The Pentagon said Donald Rumsfeld would hold a news conference. The State Department scheduled an "open press" event for Condoleezza Rice but, perhaps sensing overkill, later said there would be "no Q&A."

There was no mistaking administration talking points. Bartlett said 11 times that the president and the nation appreciate the "sacrifice" of the troops in Iraq, while seven times he spoke of "progress" and the need to be "patient" and "prudent." Pulling out the troops, he said, "would be a disastrous mistake for national security here in America."

But Bartlett spent his tour of the airwaves almost entirely on the defensive.

Talking points to articulate, in a haze of spin, the administration's point of view. A media rush on the morning talk shows. This reminds me of the playbook when bad news would leak out about the early days of the war. Or, when the administration did not like a news report about aluminum tubes or some such thing. Fortunately, the MSM is a little more vigorous this time.

And lastly, a juxtaposition:

Families are (understandably) angry about their loved ones crosses in the anti-war camp lead by Cindy Sheehan, LA Times. The Pentagon has put the "slogan-like" operational nicknames on the gravestones of heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan, breaking with tradition, AP.

More links

A substantial number of ocean-borne species are disappearing, Washington Post.

Arlen Specter wants to question John Roberts on Federal power, NY Times. Specter wrote a four page letter to Roberts, remarking on the "judicial activism" and lack of respect for Congress he has observed in past Supreme Court decisions, Washington Post.

House sales slip in Boston, Condo sales skyrocket, Boston Globe.

Google's search Czar in Forbes, LINK.

Criticism mounts for No Child Left Behind and 40-percent George W. Bush, GWB's NCLB in CSM.

CSM again with the "wacky" side of John Roberts' memos. LINK. Excerpt:

Some were just plain wacky. For instance, In September 1984, a Los Angeles man wrote to complain that all property in the US had been placed in a secret trust. Roberts response was direct:

"Please be advised that all property in the United States has not, in fact, been placed into a trust," the letter says.

Non-profits as a front for big business for the Governator, LA Times. Excerpt (lede as well):

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is benefiting from millions of dollars raised by a network of tax-exempt groups without revealing that the money comes from major corporations with business before his office.

The groups are run by Schwarzenegger's closest political allies, who also represent some of California's biggest interest groups. Unlike the governor's many campaign funds, the nonprofits are not required to disclose their contributors and can accept unlimited amounts.

It is interesting that the press, at least CNN, seems to focus more on Hugo Chavez and Cindy Sheehan than on the Governator.


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